How to Become a Nurse in Oregon

There has never been a better time to become a nurse in Oregon. Outside of the obvious job perks – the satisfaction that comes from helping people and contributing to the healthcare needs of the community – the reasons for pursuing a nursing position in the state are numerous.

A number of factors, including the aging of the U.S. population, the aging and retirement of longtime nurses, and the uncertainty of healthcare reforms, point to a nursing shortage, particularly in the state’s rural areas. That means more nursing jobs in the future.

To compound matters, schools within the state are struggling to graduate enough nurses to keep up with the demand, requiring many healthcare providers to hire nurses from outside the state (Trends in Nursing Education, 2012-2018).

The bottom line: Projections show that, between 2017 and 2027, Oregon will need an additional 26,600 RNs over a 10-year period to fill new jobs due to growth within the industry and to replace current RNs who leave their positions.

Paths to Nursing: RN, LPN and NP

Your first step to pursuing a nursing career is to determine which nursing practice you hope to work within. Each path has a different educational commitment and approach.

While there are multiple specializations within the nursing profession, the majority of nurses hold one of three designations – licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), or nurse practitioners (NP).

Nurse practitioner shows a nursing student how to run an IV

How Much Do LPNs, RNs, and NPs Typically Earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for each of the three levels of nursing are as follows (updated in 2019):

  • NPs: $115,800 per year
  • RNs: $73,300 per year
  • LPNs: $47,800 per year

According to Glassdoor, an online resource that tracks jobs, company reviews and employment statistics nationally, the average RN in Oregon can expect to make $65,870 per year, compared to $41,917 for LPNs and $115,674 for NPs (

Certified Nursing Assistants

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) do not undergo the educational training and licensing steps required of nurses. They assist patients with activities of daily living and other healthcare needs under the direct supervision of an RN or LPN.

Training to become a CNA can typically be completed in six to 12 weeks at a community college, hospital or assisted living facility. Many use the position as a launching pad to gain real-world experience in the healthcare arena before furthering their career into LPN, RN, or NP practice.

Your Education: Two Questions to Consider

As you embark on your pursuit of a nursing career in Oregon, here are two questions to consider:

  • Does my college or university of interest have regional accreditation (Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities)?
  • Does the school of nursing have nursing accreditation (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation)?

If a school does not have national nursing accreditation, some institutions may not hire you, and it may limit you from going back for the next level of education, as some institutions won’t accept the credits. All schools must be approved by the Oregon State Board of Nursing (OSBN).

How to Become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in Oregon

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) assist nurses and physicians in a generalist setting, most commonly in hospitals. Training to become an LPN in Oregon can be completed in one year at a community college or hospital.

One key fundamental difference between an RN and an LPN is their degree of independence. At the RN level of licensure, the Nurse Practice Act (NPA) makes no requirement for clinical direction or supervision of practice. At the LPN level of licensure, the practice act does make requirements for clinical direction and supervision of practice. In other words, the duties of LPNs are more limited in scope. They may take vitals and administer medications, but they cannot care for premature infants in a neonatal ward, for instance.

Here are the three steps to becoming an LPN in the state:

  1. Complete One Year of Training

    To be licensed as an LPN in Oregon, you will need to complete an Oregon State Board of Nursing-approved program at the certificate level or higher. Whatever program you choose, it should cover theory and practice in core areas like medical, surgical, pediatric, and obstetric nursing.

    Be sure to plan ahead, as many programs require a candidate to have a background check and even a physical before beginning his or her studies. There may also be an aptitude or basic skills test.

  2. Apply for Licensure

    After program completion, you will need an attestation form of successful program completion from the director. A fingerprint background criminal check is also required.

    You will need to take the identity verification form as well as the fingerprint card to your selected facility (Oregon does not require use of a particular agency, but notes that some require appointments).

  3. Pass the NCLEX-PN exam

    In Oregon, only after application and registration are both complete will you be sent an Authorization to Test, giving you the green light to take the national NCLEX-PN exam. Upon passing it, you are free to pursue employment as an LPN. If you don’t pass, you must wait 45 days to retake it. You may retake the exam multiple times.

Out-of-State LPNs

LPNs who are, or have been, licensed in other U.S. states need to apply for an endorsement through the OSBN. Candidates need to provide license verification from the first state of licensure and the most recent one (if different).

Haven’t Practiced in a While?

As of January 2021, if you haven’t practiced at least 400 hours in the preceding two years, you will need to do a board-approved refresher course. This standard holds true for all levels of nursing in the state.

How to Become a Registered Nurse (RN) in Oregon

RNs cover the full gamut of the profession. Of the 2.7 million registered nurses in the U.S., approximately 60% work in hospitals. You will also find them in clinics, physicians’ offices, healthcare settings, the military, schools, and rehabilitation agencies, to name a few.

An RN’s duties are equally diverse, ranging from providing direct care to patients to assisting physicians with medical procedures. They may also work behind the scenes to lead public health campaigns, and may specialize in a particular medical field (geriatric, pediatric, neonatal, surgical, etc).

So, what are the steps to take to become an RN in Oregon?

  1. Earn a Degree from an Accredited Program

    Whether you earn an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree or a nursing diploma, this is your first step. Associate programs typically take two years to complete, while bachelor’s degree programs take four years. Both prepare you for the next step – to take the NCLEX-RN exam – but keep in mind that many institutions require a baccalaureate degree (BSN) for hire.

    Associate programs often cover many of the same topics taught at the BSN level, but a four-year program provides a more in-depth set of knowledge and skills. If you get your associate’s degree you should plan on continuing your training in an RN to BSN program. In addition to giving you a leg up with many employers, earning a BSN gives you more options, allowing you to move into administration, advanced nursing, nursing consulting, teaching, or research roles.

    The third option, a nursing diploma – obtained through hospital-based programs that provide hands-on training alongside nursing course work – typically takes three years to complete but does not give you a degree upon completion, making it the path that gives you the fewest options professionally. There are no diploma programs in Oregon.

  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

    In Oregon, only after application and registration are both complete will you be sent an Authorization to Test, giving you the green light to take the national NCLEX-RN exam. Upon passing it, you are free to pursue employment as an RN. If you don’t pass, you must wait 45 days to retake it. You may retake the exam multiple times.

  3. Obtain an Oregon Nursing License

    The OSBN requires submission of an application and payment of a fee for licensure. Once the application and payment are received, the OSBN will go through a series of steps – including doing a fingerprint-based criminal background check and obtaining an attestation from the dean or director of their nursing program indicating the student has successfully completed requirements for the degree – before issuing your license to practice.

  4. Obtain Employment

    Once you have your license in hand, you are free to pursue the many employment opportunities that await. One thing to keep in mind: Your education won’t end when you enter the job field. In fact, much of what you’ll learn about the profession will happen on the job with hands-on experience, which leads us to our next step …

  5. Pursue Additional Training

    If you have aspirations of moving up to advanced practice, you will need to earn a master’s or doctoral degree. It will take you two or three years, but it will be worth the time if you wish to apply for more specialized roles, whether that be as a certified nurse specialist, a nurse anesthetist, a nurse practitioner or a nurse midwife.

    These advanced practice nurses (APNs) are independent practitioners often with prescriptive privileges. For those who wish to pursue positions as scientific researchers or university professors, a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) or PhD program is your best course.

RN License Requirements in Oregon

If you are from out of state and wish to work as an RN in Oregon, you must apply via examination or endorsement, depending on your experience. You may do the endorsement application online and, in most cases, the license verification as well. You will need verification from the first state of licensure as well as the most recent one (if different).

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) in Oregon

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who have earned a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) (although, by 2025, the DNP will be standard). They carry more authority than RNs and often have responsibilities similar to a doctor’s. NPs are often primary care providers who see patients and prescribe medications.

The demand for their services will increase greatly in the coming decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which estimates an anticipated 52% growth in the profession between 2020 and 2029.

Following are the steps to becoming an NP in Oregon:

  1. Earn Your RN License

    You will need to have an active RN license in good standing to begin an advanced training (MSN or DNP) program. Follow the course outlined above to reach the RN level.

  2. Earn Your MSN or DNP

    The MSN is the minimum degree you will need to be an NP in Oregon (although most NP programs are now at the doctoral level). If you have a BSN, you can apply to a standard MSN program. Those with an associate’s degree can apply to BN-to-MSN bridge programs that allow you to earn a BSN alongside an MSN.

  3. Apply for Prescriptive Authority

    Oregon requires applicants for a nurse practitioner license to qualify, apply for, and be issued prescriptive authority. The application form is available on the Oregon State Board of Nursing website.

  4. Take the National Certification Exam

    As NPs are specialists, Oregon requires they pass a national certification exam in their area of focus. The certification organizations for NPs include the American Association of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the National Certification Corporation, and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

  5. Submit Fingerprints to State

    The OSBN requires a national fingerprint-based criminal background check to apply for and obtain licensure/certification in Oregon.

  6. Apply for State Licensure

    Once you’ve taken your exam, you will need to submit your results, transcripts and fingerprints to the Oregon State Board of Nursing to obtain your nurse practitioner license.

    As part of the application process, applicants must submit their practice history. The practice requirement must be met in one of the following ways:

    • Completion of qualifying NP program within the past one year; OR
    • Completion of qualifying NP program within the past two years and a minimum of 192 hours of NP practice; OR
    • 960 NP practice hours completed in the last five years from the date of application